• conflict;
  • emotional intelligence;
  • interpersonal relationships;
  • leadership;
  • nurses

Aims  The purpose of this study was to determine if a relationship exists between emotional intelligence (EI) and preferred conflict-handling styles of registered nurses.

Background  Conflict cannot be eliminated from the workplace therefore learning appropriate conflict-handling skills is important.

Methods  Ninety-four registered nurses working in three south Mississippi healthcare facilities participated in this quantitative study. Ninety-two valid sets of data instruments were collected for this study.

Results  Higher levels of EI positively correlated with collaborating and negatively with accommodating.

Conclusions  The issue of occupational stress and conflict among nurses is a major concern. It is imperative nurses learn how to effectively handle conflict in the work environment. Developing the competencies of EI and understanding how to effectively handle conflict is necessary for nurses working in a highly stressful occupation.

Implications for nursing management  Effective leadership management includes conflict management and collaboration. The art of relationship management is necessary when handling other people’s emotions. When conflict is approached with high levels of EI, it creates an opportunity for learning effective interpersonal skills. Understanding how EI levels and conflict skills correlate can be used to improve interpersonal relationships in a healthcare facility.